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Masdar City & City Centre, Abu Dhabi: The Blueprint for Future Sustainable Cities

Posted by
on March 03, 2016 at 12:48 PM

Previewing, or predicting, what the future will look like is an engaging hobby for most of us. We all indulge in the fun of imagining what all the technological developments, or the energy and population concerns of today will lead to tomorrow, or how changing socio-cultural values will translate in our future lifestyles, or even how we humans are likely to look in the future after a phase of physical evolution. The Abu Dhabi Government administration has taken upon itself the task of preparing the 'crystal ball’ that will show the world how future cities will and should, look, feel and function in their Masdar City project, being master-planned by Foster and Partners. This first carbon-neutral city of the world will be built in the middle of the desert near Abu Dhabi, and design firm Laboratory of Visionary Architecture (LAVA) won the keenly contested competition to design the Masdar City Centre.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Masdar City

Masdar city, spread over 6 million square metres in the desert at 17 km from Abu Dhabi, is probably the world’s most prestigious project presently that focuses on sustainable development and energy efficiency. Aiming at a zero-carbon and zero-waste functional design, the Masdar City project has the Abu Dhabi government’s long term commitment to develop and consequently deploy newer green technologies to fulfil this aim. To be built in seven phases spread over seven years at an investment of more than 20 billion USD, Masdar City aims to provide a blueprint for all future sustainable cities in the world. As a world first, the electricity required for the construction of the Masdar Headquarters building is being generated by photovoltaic panels mounted on the roof, which has been constructed ahead of the rest of the building for this purpose.

To be built along the lines of ancient walled cities, Masdar will be connected by an existing road network, bolstered by new public transit and rail routes, to Abu Dhabi international airport and Abu Dhabi city centre. Planned to be car-free and pedestrian friendly, it’s compact road and street network ensures maximum distance of 200 metres to the nearest public transport for any pedestrian. Additionally, and most fantastically, a personal rapid transport system in the form of transport pods will complement the scheme, transporting individuals across this futuristic fantasy land! Thus, traditionally tested ideas of ideal civilizational settlements like community interactions and unhindered pedestrian links are being encouraged here with the help of the latest technological developments integrated with green tools and solutions.

Masdar City Centre

And, this futuristic fantasy-turning-into-reality urban conglomerate is to have a suitably worthy heart in the form of the Masdar City Centre being designed by LAVA, a research and network based design firm having offices in Sydney, Shanghai, Stuttgart, Berlin, and now Abu Dhabi as well. With a vision to achieve ‘more with less’ (more architecture with less material/ energy/ time/ cost), LAVA strives to merge future technologies with the patterns of organisation found in nature to build a smarter, friendlier, more socially and environmentally responsible future. Little wonder then, they came up with the winning design proposal for the social epicentre of the future-ready Masdar City.

Marrying the idea of the oasis being the centre of life in a desert to the one of square, plaza or forum being the social centre of life in the classical western cities, Masdar City Centre has been conceptualised as an interactive public plaza surrounded by social, commercial and recreational facilities. In terms of functioning and the technologies employed to achieve it, this City Centre has been visualised as a path-breaking beacon showing the way for ideal future cities, an ‘oasis of the future’.

The centre will include an open air plaza surrounded by a five star hotel and other hotels, convention centre, recreational and retail facilities and remain open for public use 24 x 7. This plaza will be shaded during day by a field of open giant sunflower umbrellas, which will simultaneously collect and store heat, and fold up during night to release the stored solar energy to light up the premises. These umbrellas, providing sun-shade by following the sun’s projections, are a prototype that can be replicated anywhere in the world and open up opportunities for outdoor living according to LAVA principals Chris Bosse, Tobias Wallisser and Alexander Rieck.

The shapes of buildings at the Masdar City Centre have been inspired by natural forms that occur due to erosion in sandy desert regions, canyons or wadis. LAVA’s winning proposal includes a veritable list of innovative energy conserving, sustenance promoting tools like interactive, heat sensitive technology to activate lighting in response to pedestrian movement. The angles of wall facades are programmed to alter themselves so as to optimise solar glare; while walls will have surface finishes embedded with minimal energy that will respond to changing temperatures.

Water, stored underground during the day, is planned to be released through water features at night, allowing it to trickle or flow heavily in response to movements of passers-by. Roof gardens will be integrating food production, energy generation, water conservation and re-use of wastes.

Thus packing a world of innovative sustainable, energy conserving tools and a nature-inspired design to boot, backed by the UAE government’s commitment, the Masdar City Centre is poised for take-off. The Sydney/Dubai based Kann Finch group, engineering firm Arup, Transsolar (the world’s leading energy consultancy firm), and a team of international experts is collaborating with LAVA to functionally realise the world-class innovative landmark of sustainable architecture and engineering design that it is intended to be. 

Designer : LAVA, Foster and Partners
Photography :internet resources

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